They showed him pictures of the bloodied babies but the man accused of inflicting the carnage remained stone-faced. "Timothy James McVeigh, Sergeant, United States army, i.d. number ... I am a prisoner of war," he is reported to have responded to FBI investigators.
A week after the bombing now believed to have killed 286 people, the most hated man in America is unwilling to co-operate and shows no sign of remorse, according to FBI sources. A decorated Gulf War infantryman, who served for a time as a bodyguard for the Desert Storm commander, General Norman Schwarzkopf, he apparently sees himself as a foot soldier in a war between the American people and the US government.
On the eve of his preliminary hearing in front of a federal judge at a prison here tomorrow, the FBI believes it has a strong circumstantial case against him. Several witnesses reportedly picked him out at an identity parade at an air force base here last weekend as a man they saw loitering outside the federal building minutes before the bombing.
The FBI is, however, looking for a "mastermind" and several other people it believes were part of a long-hatched conspiracy.
A note requesting a detailed list of explosives has been found tucked beneath the back seat of the highway patrol car in which Mr McVeigh was initially detained at Perry, north of here, 80 minutes after the bombing, police sources said.
FBI agents yesterday continued the hunt for a tattooed man dubbed John Doe 2, suspected, along with Mr McVeigh, of renting the furniture van thought to have been packed with 5,000 pounds of explosives but probably not the "mastermind".
They were also looking for Mr McVeigh's unidentified former wife or girlfriend, who had his baby last year, with concern over the security of a child likely to inherit the legacy of American hatred.
Mr McVeigh's father Bill, an employee of General Motors near Buffalo, New York, is in protective custody. His mother Mildred Frazer, long separated, said she had had little contact with her son since he left school.
FBI agents have questioned one of Mr McVeigh's two sisters, Jennifer McVeigh, 21, in Buffalo on Monday, after she flew there from her home in Pensacola, Florida. The FBI has been searching that home for explosives, militia or anti-government pamphlets or documents that might link her with a conspiracy. She is said by FBI sources to have been close to her brother and to have shared his anti-system views.
Meanwhile, "search and rescue" teams, painstakingly passing rubble piece by piece along a human chain, dug through an area they call "the pit", where they believe 200 bodies, or more likely the parts of 200 bodies, may lie. That is the building's bite-shaped north-eastern section, where all nine floors pancaked into a single pile of rubble on top of a child day-care centre and a packed social security office.
Rescue workers explained yesterday how floors and ceilings that did not completely collapse tilted violently, turning each storey into a deadly chute into "the pit".
One of the latest victims found was US Marines Captain Randolph Guzman, 28, who ran a recruiting office on the eighth floor. Astonished rescuers found his body in ground- level rubble, still seated at his desk, with his computer intact and his uniform barely tattered. As his corpse was removed in a body bag draped in a US flag, rescue workers saluted.
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